Since 1974 or so, local ringette players have gathered for a tournament in or around this time of year. In the beginning, it was largely an “A”/”AA” competitive event, with a separate house league showcase typically scheduled in January.
Over time, the two tournaments morphed into a single competition, eventually giving way to a house league event only given the challenge of attracting rep teams to the north. Thankfully for organizers and fans of the sport, the current format continues to draw well, as nearly 35 teams gathered at the Gerry McCrory Sports Complex, site of the Sudbury Invitational Ringette Tournament this past weekend.
“It’s been pretty solid,” noted Cindy Vintinner, involved on the board of the local ringette association and also helping out with this early winter tradition for more than a decade now. “Barrie rejuvenated their program, got it back up and going in the past two to three years, so they send up all of their teams to us.”
“Timmins always comes down with their teams, West Ferris, the Sault. It’s closer for them than travelling down south.” As is the case in several pockets of amateur sports in these parts, there is a need to work together for the betterment of all.
“We’ve had struggles, at times, like the weather,” Vintinner continued. “But it’s a Northern Ontario thing. We all kind of get through it. We’re holding our own here and all of our divisions are full.”
Still, numbers are not what they were when ringette was thriving back in the 1970s. In these parts, the same players who comprise local and regional “A”, “AA” or “AAA” entries will also dot the lineups of the more recreational groupings that were taking to the ice over the course of the past few days.
Thanks to a huge buy-in from the girls, and some solid direction from those in charge, it’s a situation that works, at least for the folks involved with ringette. “The girls who have been through the “A”, “AA”, “AAA” programs become leaders in the dressing room,” noted Vintinner.
“It steps up the house league competition a little bit, but it’s a good challenge for all of the girls. We want them to come back to their house league teams and show them what they are learning at the higher levels, maybe not at the same intensity, because the girls that are on house league are there because that’s what they want to play, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
A grade eight student at Marymount Academy, Maddie Glogger is just one of several young ladies taking up the torch that Vintinner and others have tossed her way. Competing with a regional U14 “AA” team that also includes several athletes from North Bay, Sault Ste Marie and Timmins, Glogger is suiting up this weekend with her Sudbury house league team.
“I do look at it in a different way,” said Glogger. “It’s not as advanced, but I still have to do my best. I try and help out the girls to become better players. They don’t need help with a lot of stuff, they just need to become a little more powerful, to battle for the rings, with shooting.”
In fact, while this long-time student of the game has enjoyed success at both center and on defense over the years, she does now see a particularly nice fit between her skill set and the latter at this stage in her career.
“I’m strong and “muscly”, I guess, so I am able to check the girls more easily,” suggested Glogger. “You have to play it smart. You can’t come from behind the girl. You have to come sort of to the side, or a little bit in front of the girl. You can nudge a little bit, as long as you’re fighting for the ring. You have to be on each other, shoulder to shoulder.”
With a two team schedule that keeps her and her family hopping for much of the winter, Glogger is not about to drop a sport that fills many a niche for this competitive teen. “I’ve played ever since I was really young,” she said. “My mother got me into the sport and I’ve stuck with it. It gives you that rush of excitement, just chasing the ring, getting it and going to score.”
That is music to the ears of Vintinner and others who are committed to ensuring the long-term viability of a winter pastime that owes its very creation to pioneers in this part of the province. “Are we better now than where we were five years ago?,” she said. “Absolutely.”
“We’ve got a pre-bunny program that brings in thirty to forty new players every year. We also have parents from down south who know ringette and they’re migrating to Sudbury and reaching out to us. They’re daughters are joining.”
For a tournament that will celebrate a half century of memories before too long, this is good news indeed.